Microsoft releases AI-powered app to help blind 'see'


Microsoft has released a free iPhone app that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to tell visually-impaired persons what is around them. If the phone is pointed at a park, the camera app, named Seeing AI, can describe how the scene looks like.

Similarly, it can tell the amount of your restaurant bill or narrate just about anything it is pointed at.

"With this intelligent camera app, just hold up your phone and hear information about the world around you," Microsoft said of its app designed to turn the "visual world into an audible experience".

Microsoft describes Seeing AI as "a free app that narrates the world around you. Designed for the low-vision community, this research project harnesses the power of AI to describe people, text and objects". This is also the latest project from Microsoft built using its AI technology.

Representative image | Credit: Clem Onojeghuo from Unsplash

But Microsoft is not alone in tackling this problem. Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are working on similar projects, CNET reported on Wednesday.

Startups, too, are developing products using AI to help visually-impaired people. Australian-based startup Aipoly devised an app of the same name to help the visually-impaired by using machine-learning to identify objects, all without the use of the internet Aipoly the app is touted as the ‘artificial intelligence for the blind’. Aipoly uses a technique called ‘deep learning’, a kind of machine-learning technique inspired by studies of the brain.

It uses a technology that breaks down the image into its most basic forms – straight lines, curves, circles, and other various patterns – and then proceeds to liken these images to a specific object. This is the same kind of technology used by companies like Facebook and Google to recognise faces and search images, respectively.

Microsoft has been doing notable work in harnessing technology to tackle problems plaguing the healthcare sector, like its Healthcare NExT initiative, and a prototype wearable that helped a woman with tremors caused by Parkinson's disease.


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